Fri, Jun 08, 2018 - Page 8 News List

My reasons for quitting as minister

By Wu Maw-kuen 吳茂昆

I would like to explain why I decided to resign as minister of education after only 41 days.

From the moment I was appointed minister, members of the opposition party were relentless in vilifying my professional and personal reputation.

In the legislature, some lawmakers even refused to let me speak.

The media has reported false information about me, including claims that I have US citizenship, which I do not.

Their appetite for making untrue accusations against me came at the cost of the public good.

The attention on me made it difficult for my colleagues at the Ministry of Education, as well as other members of the Executive Yuan, to carry out their daily duties.

I ultimately decided to step down out of respect for their work.

I am hopeful that those in the media and legislature who have spent so much energy opposing me will now return to the work of transforming the ways young people in Taiwan learn.

I want to address several accusations that have been lobbed at me.

The first involved a 2005 conference in China.

I attended two meetings in China between Oct. 17 and Oct. 23, 2005, when I was minister of science and technology.

The first was the International Council for Science meeting in Suzhou from Oct. 17 to Oct. 21.

The second was a meeting in Hangzhou on Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 at the Science and Technology Summit, a conference that included eminent academics who were in charge of the science and technology funding in their respective countries.

My opponents looked at the paperwork that I submitted for both meetings.

They acknowledged that the Executive Yuan had approved my participation in the first meeting, but they then went on to claim that since I had not received formal approval for the second meeting, I contravened the law by attending it.

Actually, the official papers from the Executive Yuan did not simply say “yes” or “no” to my request.

It was only in the past month that I learned of the ambiguity of the Executive Yuan’s decision.

Given the prestigious nature of these conferences and the benefit to Taiwan, I believed both had been approved.

This accusation was the last straw — I realized at this point that members of the opposition would not cease in mischaracterizing minute acts.

The second relates to an international patent application made through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

I wish people to understand that my decision to serve as president of Donghwa University was deeply personal: I grew up in Hualien.

I hoped to make Donghwa University a center of vibrant activity and be of service to my hometown.

The opposition and media have claimed that I stole a patent from Donghwa, when in fact I sought to obtain a patent for Donghwa that would give it powerful international protection.

Their accusation reflects a lack of knowledge of patent law.

The patent in question relates to the discovery of special qualities in the plant spiranthes, an orchid abundant on Donghwa’s campus.

In 2014, a research program that I helped to lead obtained results showing that the plant extract has excellent anti-inflammation functions.

For me personally, the most thrilling aspect of this entire program was that young, energetic, hard-working students got to take part in the entire process.

They applied for patents in Taiwan and the US.

By early 2015, further experiments showed even more promising features, so that an extension of the patent application was filed, again with Donghwa University as patent applicant.

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